Expanding on UCCA’s longstanding interest in emerging practices, “New Directions: He Xiangyu” begins a new series of exhibitions focused on young Chinese artists.
From June 11 to August 9, the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) begins the “New Directions” initiative with the solo exhibition of He Xiangyu, a presentation of 365 paintings from the artist’s ongoing Palate Project. Part of UCCA’s mission to expose the diverse practices of emerging artistic talents from Greater China to wider international audiences, “New Directions: He Xiangyu” is staged in the Long Gallery and will be followed by two subsequent shows featuring young Chinese artists later in the year.

Best known for sculptural works combining comedy and high concept, He Xiangyu here takes a solipsistic turn, revealing an inner topography depicted in a highly sensitive painterly language. During a brief stint in the U.S. where language barriers proved difficult to navigate, He Xiangyu began translating the ridges, bumps, and grooves of his palate through perceptions felt with his tongue. The act of translation, always aimed at demystifying the subject, here only seems to further complicate it. The phenomenological processes responsible for constructing a sense of interior space intrinsic to vocalization, the curl of the tongue that produces “rat” as opposed to “that”, become a function of He Xiangyu’s body mapping, supplanting the oral, and aural, by reaffirming the centrality of visual representation.

Executed over the course of four years, Palate Project is composed of six groups of drawings and moves in a perennial display of watercolor, ink, and mixed media on paper. Identifiable anatomical structures dissolve and re-emerge, eventually evolving into color fields of yellow with only the slightest hints of form. Based on a seemingly obvious premise, Palate Project revels in a Cartesian split of mind and body, illustrating that, in spite of proximity to subject, art remains the annotation to a lost referent.